Lampedusa: murderous Europe

The new shipwreck of a boat coming from Libya in which at least 300 out of the 500 passengers perished or disappeared very near to the island of Lampedusa, was not caused by fate. In 2010, in the same place, two simultaneous shipwrecks resulted in close to 400 victims. In 2009, 200 people drowned in the high seas off the Sicilian coast. Only during the first six months of 2011, UNHCR estimated that 1,500 boat people had come to their deaths while they tried to reach the coasts of the island of Malta or Italy. Since the mid-1990s, the war undertaken by Europe against migrants has killed at least 20,000 people in the Mediterranean.

War? How else could you name the deliberate establishment of border control mechanisms, in the name of the fight against irregular immigration, for the purpose of pushing back those who are driven out from their homes by misery and persecutions? These mechanisms go under the name of Frontex, the European border agency which deploys its ships, helicopters, aeroplanes, radars, heat-seeking cameras since 2005 and will soon deploy its drones from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Greek islands to protect Europe from the “unwanted”. Or even Eurosur, a coordinated surveillance system which, since 2011, calls upon cutting edge technologies to militarise the European Union’s external borders in order to limit the number of irregular immigrants who penetrate them. How else could the collaboration that is imposed by Europe upon the migrants’ transit countries – Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco – in order for them to play the role of prison guards and dissuade them from taking the northward route, at the cost of round-ups, arrests, ill-treatment, kidnappings?

The latest shipwreck in Lampedusa was more spectacular than usual because of its scale and it did not fail to draw the crocodile tears that are ritually poured out by the same people who are responsible for it. The day of national mourning decreed by Italy - a country whose governments, of the right and left alike have never ceased to approve agreements on migration with their neighbouring countries (even when dealing with Qaddafi’s and Ben Ali’s dictatorships) in order to be able to send the exiles back to them -, is echoed by the declarations by the European commissioner for internal affairs, who called for the speeding up of the implementation of Eurosur, which she argues is meant to provide better surveillance at sea of the refugees’ boats. Where will this hypocrisy stop? There are few maritime spaces that are equipped with an observation and surveillance net that is as tight as in the Mediterranean. If rescuing were a priority - as required by the law of the sea - would we be complaining about so many shipwrecks between Libya and Lampedusa?

Smugglers, mafias and human traffickers are already designated as the main guilty parties, as if the sinister business of those who profit from the imperious need that some migrants have of crossing the borders at any cost were not made possible and encouraged by the politicians who organise their closure. Must one recall that if some Syrians who are fleeing seek, risking their lives, to cross the Mediterranean, this is because the EU member states refuse to issue them visas that would enable them to legally come to request asylum in Europe?

People are talking about fishermen who, having seen the boat that was adrift, continued along their way without assisting its passengers, and some voices were heard calling for them to be prosecuted and punished for failing to assist people who were in danger. Have they forgotten that in 2007, seven Tunisian fishermen accused of having “assisted the irregular entry of foreigners on Italian soil” were prosecuted by the Italian justice system, imprisoned and had their boat confiscated because they hand lent assistance to some migrants whose vessel was sinking, had taken them on board and transported them to Lampedusa?

No, the tragedy of Lampedusa is not the fruit of fate. It is not due to greedy smugglers, nor to indifferent fishermen. The deaths in Lampedusa, like those from yesterday and from tomorrow, are the victims of a Europe that is locked to the point of obliviousness into a securitarian logic, which has renounced the values that it claims to defend. A murderous Europe.

First suscribers: Abderrhamane Hedhili, president of Forum tunisien pour les droits économiques et sociaux (FTDES), Tunisia ; Filippo Miraglia, Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (Arci), Italy ; Francis Lecomte, co-president of the Fédération des Associations de Solidarité avec les Travailleur-euse-s Immigré-e-s (FASTI), France ; Geneviève Jacques, president of La Cimade, France ; Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation of human rights leagues (FIDH), international; Mehdi Alioua, president of the Groupe antiraciste de défense et d’accompagnement des étrangers et migrants (GADEM), Morocco ; Olivier Clochard, president of Migreurop, international; Stéphane Maugendre, president of the Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigrés (GISTI), France – members of the coalition Boats4People.

Aboubacar Issa, coordinator of RNDD, Niger; Ahmed El Haij, president of the Association marocaine des droits de l’homme (AMDH), Morocco; Alain Baumelou, president of Association d’Accueil aux médecins et Personnels de Santé Réfugiés en France (APSR), France; Alexis Deswaef, president of the Human Right League (LDH), Belgium; Antoine Cassar, Passaport Project and Le monde n’est pas rond, Luxembourg ; Arnaud Zacharie, Secrétaire général du CNCD-11.11.11, Belgium; Christophe Levy, secretary general of the Groupe Accueil et Solidarité (GAS), France; David Buitrón, Asociación Ecuador-Etxea, Spain; Driss Elkerchi, president of the Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France (ATMF), France ; Esteban Ibarra Blanco, president of Movimiento contra la Intolerancia Valencia (MCI), Spain; Esther Canarias Fdez.-Cavada, co-coordinator of Iniciativas de Cooperación y Desarrollo, Spain; Harresiak Apurtuz, coordinator of Euskadi de Apoyo a Inmigrantes, Spain; Helmut Dietrich, Forschungsgesellschaft Flucht und Migration e.V. (FFM), Germany ; Javier Galparsoro, president of Comisión de Ayuda al Refugiado en Euskadi (CEAR-Euskadi), Spain; Jean-Eric Malabre, co-president of the Association nationale d’assistance aux frontières pour les étrangers (Anafé), France; Jérôme Duval, Comité pour l’annulation de la dette du tiers monde (CADTM), international; Julien Bayou, La Nouvelle Ecole Ecologiste, France; Lorenzo Trucco, president of the Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’immigrazione (Asgi), Italy ; Mamadou M’Bodje, project manager of the Association de Solidarité et d’Information pour l’Accès aux Droits des étrangers (ASIAD), France; Manuel Malheiros, president Liga-Civitas, Portugal ; Marysia Khaless, Français langue d’accueil, France; Michala Bendixen, chairman of Refugees Welcome, Denmark ; Michel Brugière, president of the Centre Primo Levi, France; Michel Tubiana, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights (EMNHR), international; Oscar Flores, spokesman of the Coordination contre les Rafles et les Expulsions et pour la Régularisation - Bruxelles (CRER), Belgium; Serge Kollwelter, president of the Association européenne pour le défense des droits de l’Homme (AEDH), Europe; Tarek Benhiba, president of the Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux rives (FTCR), France; Vicent Maurí, spokesman of the Intersindical Valenciana, Spain; Yves Ballard, president of Dom’Asile, France; Association Survie, France; Associazione culturale Askavusa, Lampedusa, Italy; BATEGITE, Spain; Campaña por el cierre de los Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, “CIE’s No”, Spain; Càritas Bizkaia, Spain; Center for Peace Studies, Croatia; Fédération de l’Entraide Protestante (FEP), France; Ferrocarril Clandestino Commission "Cerremos los CIE", Spain; Jarit, asociación Civil, Spain; La Marmite aux Idées (Calais), France; Mesa d’Entitats de Solidaritat amb les i els Migrants, Spain; Mujeres en la Diversidad, Spain ; Réseau Euromed France (REF), France ...

Individuals: Anna Billard; Camille Schmoll; Carla Uriarte; Cristina Sanz Salamanca; Etienne Corbaz; Maria Teresa Pitarch Saborit; Martina Tazzioli; Philippe Wannesson; Ricardo Oficialdegui Iriarte; Sebastien Bachelet; Virginie Baby Collin...

Photo Sara Prestianni